County Government

County supervisors to weigh in on efforts to save Yolo Crisis Nursery

By From page A1 | April 27, 2014

With the clock ticking on a June 30 shutdown date, efforts to save the Yolo Crisis Nursery continue on multiple fronts — from private fundraising to state legislation — and county supervisors will be asked to weigh in on Tuesday.

EMQ FamiliesFirst announced in March it would no longer operate the nursery, which provides emergency care to children ages 0-5 when their parents or guardians find themselves unable to do so. The nursery, located on a residential street in Davis, served 265 Yolo County children in 2013, providing emergency overnight care, emergency day care, case management for parents by a licensed social worker and more.

The nursery has been credited with saving hundreds of children from abuse or neglect during its 13-year history — abuse or neglect that parents themselves have said likely would have occurred had they not had a safe place to bring their children.

But the cost of running the nursery — more than $600,000 a year under EMQ’s management — as well as fallout from issues at EMQ FamiliesFirst’s group home on Fifth Street last year, prompted the agency to announce in March it would not longer operate or fund the nursery, effective June 30.

Now the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery are fighting the clock on multiple fronts.

A fundraising campaign that kicked off last week seeks to raise $100,000 by June 15; negotiations are underway with EMQ to extend the shutdown date into fall while the Friends locate an alternative host agency; and state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, is carrying legislation that would create a pilot project funding both the Yolo Crisis Nursery as well as a Sacramento crisis nursery while collecting data on the efficacy of crisis nurseries in preventing child abuse.

Meanwhile, the Friends contend the nursery could be operated at a budget of $390,000, significantly less than EMQ’s nursery budget of $630,000.

On Tuesday, a large turnout is expected in the Board of Supervisors chambers when Yolo County supervisors will be asked to throw their support behind all of those efforts.

Among those expected to testify is longtime crisis nursery supporter Heidy Kellison.

Kellison said her message to supervisors is a simple one: “That the nursery is beloved and the solution to save it is close. It makes no sense to turn our backs on it.”

By standing behind the nursery, and in support, she said, the board of supervisors will make clear to donors and state lawmakers that the nursery is a worthwhile endeavor to support.

Kellison points to a study done in 2004 as evidence of just how worthwhile the crisis nursery is.

That study found that families without access to crisis nurseries were 50-percent more likely to have allegations of abuse or neglect substantiated by child protective services.

Indeed, the most recent annual report by the Yolo Crisis Nursery found more than 95 percent of families that received services there did not become involved with child protective services. When asked at exit interviews what they would have done had they not been able to leave their children at the Yolo Crisis Nursery, the majority of parents reported they would have left their children in unsafe situations or called child protective services themselves.

One of the goals behind Wolk’s legislation is to verify that data locally and possibly give impetus to state lawmakers to fund additional crisis nurseries statewide, Kellison said.

The “Crisis Nursery Project to Reduce Child Abuse” would provide $2.4 million in state funding over two years to the Sacramento and Yolo crisis nurseries to evaluate the effectiveness of crisis nurseries at reducing child abuse. The Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery have asked supervisors to formally support the bill, which they said would provide much-needed funding to the Yolo Crisis Nursery.

Meanwhile, county staff already has been directed to focus on two separate tracks for preserving the services currently provided by the nursery.

The first would identify ways to keep the crisis nursery open and operating as is, but under different management and with different funding sources. The second track would be triggered if the first is not successful and would attempt to use a variety of local resources to provide what the crisis nursery currently does in one place.

The biggest hurdle in keeping the crisis nursery operating as is will, of course, be funding.

County staff note the comprehensive services offered to children and parents accessing the program contribute to the high costs of running the nursery, as does the high quality of care given to children with special needs or behavioral problems, who have often failed to succeed in traditional daycare.

But absent EMQ support — which has been partially funding the nursery with as much as $300,000 in grants — the nursery would have only about $85,000 in stable and dedicated revenue streams after the first year, county staff determined.

“The program has a long list of potential grantors, but grants typically have to be re-applied for each year, and there is no guarantee that a granted funding source will continue from year to year,” staff reported. “If it remains open, the crisis nursery will be required to raise the majority of its budget in grants and local donations, which can be a challenge for any organization.”

Kellison said the current fundraising campaign — “One Child, One Day” — is aimed at showing the community’s support for the nursery will translate into those private donations. In just its first week, she said, the campaign has raised a significant amount of money from both private donors and larger community groups.

Management of the nursery is another issue.

The nursery would be most successful if supported by a larger organization able to provide administrative services and fundraising power, county staff report.

The Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery have been working feverishly on that aspect as well, reaching out to various local agencies and non-profits, and there, too, Kellison said, they are finding many possible avenues of support.

But even if funding and management are secured in the next couple of months, licensing will remain an issue. According to county staff, if a new organization agrees to take over management of the crisis nursery, the final step in keeping the nursery open would be to complete a change of ownership with California Community Care Licensing to switch the existing crisis nursery licenses from EMQ to the new organization.

CCL has stated that it would typically take at least 90 days to complete this process, staff reported, though it may be possible to expedite the process in this case. Nevertheless, the timeline would be tight, one of the reasons the Friends are negotiating with EMQ to extend the shutdown date beyond June 30, Kellison said.

If efforts to save the crisis nursery as it currently exists fail, county staff will focus on the second track of spreading the crisis nursery’s services over multiple local agencies.

But while some of those services — including supervised visitation and family life skills training — can be relocated fairly easily before June 30, replacing the actual emergency child care remains a challenge.

The nursery provides three unique services that do not currently exist anywhere else in the community, county staff reported: emergency overnight care, emergency daycare and respite care for foster parents. These programs serve at-risk children, often with special care needs, who are not likely to succeed in a traditional daycare setting, staff reported. Additionally, these services are provided on a drop-in basis with little or no notice from parents, which is very uncommon among the daycare programs in Yolo County.

Another service that will be difficult to replace is the preschool the crisis nursery provides for special needs children. As county staff noted, “special needs preschools are very rare in Yolo County, and it may be difficult to transition the nursery’s current preschool students into other schools where they will continue to get the attention and care they require.”

The board’s Homeless Ad Hoc Committee is working with staff to identify replacements for both the preschool and the child care provided by the nursery should the nursery close.

The issues facing the Yolo Crisis Nursery will be taken up by the Board of Supervisors at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday in the board chambers at 625 Court St. in Woodland.

Meanwhile, the “One Child, One Day” fundraising campaign continues. The Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery are asking for $50 contributions — the amount required to provide one day of respite care to one child. Donations can be made online at https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/friendsofYCN/ in any amount.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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